It has been a dream to be in Japan during Cherry Blossom and that was our original plan for this trip but then again, like most of our travel plans, this one turned into a completely different, more adventurous journey! What's the next big festival to be at in Japan? The Snow festival in Sapporo! K was super excited since we were going to experience the "Real" Winter which he reads about in books!
It was literally planned in a couple of days and the Japanese embassy processed our visa in less than 24 hours! This is unlike any other Visa process we've been through..No hours of waiting in lines, thousands of papers to collect-just a straightforward, simple two page form and basic documents! This was one of the main reasons that this trip materialised!
Now onto the next step-where do we stay? While selecting our accommodation online, we came across this amazing lakefront property, an hour away from Sapporo and eventually this turned out to be the best part of our trip! The charm of small towns in far away lands is unmatched. This quaint lakeside town, can literally be covered on foot within an hour or less, but such was its beauty that even K felt that we should never leave! No malls, children's play areas or the likes, just nature in its pristine beauty!
We spent our days at a cafe by the lake, played in the snow, ate roasted corn at a lovely roadside stall. The hotel we stayed at was designed to give you an authentic Japanese experience-shoes had to be taken off at the entrance and you were given house slippers, the rooms were designed to look authentic, they had Japanese Onsen baths in the basement. They also had some interesting quirky features like a Pillow Bar where you could choose your Room Pillow from the multitude on display and an Aqua Bar with so many flavoured sparkling and still waters for your room. We enjoyed the slow, easy paced life for a couple of days and then made it to the Snow festival in Sapporo.
There are a three different parts of the Snow festival and we headed straight to the one slightly outside town for the kid centric part. With snowman building, snow slides, bamboo skiing, a snow pit (akin to a sand pit-with the buckets, shovels and all), this was a thrilling day for K! Over time, I've realised that the snow and the cold isn't all that difficult to handle, even for kids like K who are used to the scorching heat almost all year round! You just have to have the right gear! We did visit the famed snow sculptures of Sapporo in the evening but K's verdict was that the Lake was so much better and he missed it!
Onwards to our next destination- The Disneyland Tokyo. I had been to Japan on an official visit earlier and had seen the Disney while transiting to the airport and thought I'd be back one day! K had been to the The Walt Disney World in Orlando earlier, but this was something else. The shows in Tokyo are a class apart. I've been to all the Disney's except California now and the performances here were unique and worth a visit. Though, I wouldn't recommend this as the first Disney you would visit with a child (A lot of the performances are in Japanese!) Plus you need to know the drill of how fast passes etc work and plan your day well. The locals in Disney are like people with a mission-they know exactly where and when to go to the rides so you would need to keep up with that! In saying that, there are two huge parks and there will always be things to do- but definitely try and catch the signature shows of Tokyo! Also make sure to have their special themed snacks including the Monsters. Inc. dumplings and the various flavoured popcorn this Disney is famous for!
Then again, there is no other Disney in the world, where you can stay inside the theme park and have direct access to the park through a private hotel entrance! K was super excited to see the shows right from his own window. This was a unique experience and like all days in Disney-these went by in a flash.
We then spent a couple of days in a suburb of Tokyo which had so much to do from Legoland, to a Toyota factory where kids could see the assembly line and even ride a car. We didn't end up seeing much of the city. The view from the hotel was remarkable and K and I enjoyed our breakfasts looking onto the city and the magnificent Rainbow Bridge. And just like that, it was time to say Arigato Gozaymasu (thank you!) though we both felt there was so much more to do! We will definitely be back- for the Cherry Blossoms, the Shinkasen rides, but above all for the people! The people of Japan are so helpful and warm, that the language barriers seem to just fade away...Go and experience Japan for this more than anything else..